Nova Scotia

Water rate increase approved with condition

Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board has granted the Halifax Water Commission's request to increase water rates.

Rates will rise 8.7%, then another 12.9% Apr. 1, 2014, according to UARB estimates

Nova Scotia's largest brewer — the Oland Brewery — said it's facing a $1 million increase in its water bill if all the rate increases are approved. (iStock)

Nova Scotia's Utility and Review Board has approved higher water rates in the Halifax region, but even the city’s water commission hasn’t been able to calculate the impact on residential consumers.

The Halifax Water Commission had asked the review board to approve a water rate increase over two years by 30 per cent for residential customers and 50 per cent and higher for businesses.

The Utility and Review Board estimates that average residential customers will be paying 8.7 per cent more for water beginning July 1, then paying an additional 12.9 per cent more for water on Apr. 1, 2014.

Those numbers are based on annual water consumption of 188 cubic metres but will vary de[pending on water usage.

The final result will be lower than originally requested because costs have shifted away from the rate base.

A look back: Halifax water bills

2002: $362.28 per house

2007: $486.56 per house

2012: $642.84 per house

Provincial regulators will not allow the water service to charge more for stormwater costs. Instead, the Halifax Regional Municipality will assume responsibility, about $3 million per year.

Cathie O'Toole, Halifax water's finance director, said she is still trying assess the impact of those changes.

The Halifax Water Commission wants to increase rates starting in July and again next April. The money will be spent replacing aging pipes and other infrastructure.

The price increase would affect nearly 80,000 customers.

Water hike especially costly for business

A water hike for residential customers of more than 20 per cent will be costly — but for business customers like Oland Brewery in Halifax, a water hike directly hits the company's bottom line.

Wade Keller, spokesperson for InBev which owns the Oland Brewery, has said that a water rate increase of 11 to 16 per cent, combined with wastewater charges would cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, if not more.

"Some of it goes into bottles and the rest of it goes down the drain and so we're facing some challenges with a potential increase in how much we pay for putting that water down the drain," said Keller in a January interview.

"We're looking at an increase, we're thinking it'll be about $100,000 a year for the water rate increase and then the wastewater is an additional $400,000 on top of that."

Keller told CBC News on Monday that the approved water rate increase is bad news for Oland business.

"We are disappointed the the outcome. It will cost us an extra $1 million per year, which will make it more difficult to compete for new investments within Canada," he said.